God is God. Because He is God, He is worthy of my trust and obedience. I will find rest nowhere but in His holy will, a will that is unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He is up to. ~ Elisabeth Elliot
I lay in bed several nights ago, desperately trying to shut off the annoying active machine that is the inside of my head. I was so tired. I so badly needed sleep. But sleep was nowhere in sight.
In addition to the fact that I had a running mental list of things that needed to be done, my emotions were all over the place. I couldn’t quite hone in on the primary/foundational emotion that was driving all of the others. I could identify frustration, sadness, anxiety, but they were all coming from some other stronger feeling.
Everything just felt so out of control. Almost nine months had passed since Lilyan’s homecoming, and although we had been steeling ourselves for a full year of great intensity as we settled her into our family and began working our way through her myriad of medical issues, we had been pleasantly surprised.
Her adjustment as a new Rosenow turned out to be so easy and resulted in practically no negative impact to our family, and after just a few months, doctors decided that ultimately dealing with her biggest medical issues would require some significant research and needed to be pushed out a bit once she was stable and functioning relatively well. She reached this point of stability pretty quickly, and we relaxed.
This was like a breath of fresh air as we realized that we were now, surprisingly, looking at months of calm and quiet — fun science experiments (the kind of school fun that our very full life rarely allows in our homeschooling routine), trips to the zoo, wonderful home-cooked meals, free concerts and picnics in the park, family hikes, etc. It had been such a hard few years. We hadn’t been able to do many of these things for many months, so this was a pleasant turn of events for us.
But things didn’t unfold as we expected. Almost right away, our life suddenly began filling up with unexpected surgeries and accidents. We would get through one crisis only to find ourselves facing another energy-sucking, unplanned interruption to life.
Then, several of the kids who had made such beautiful progress with their trust issues, their negative behavior, and their struggles to allow us into their hearts, suddenly began experiencing regressions — all at the same time!
In the middle of this, we also faced several disappointments as we watched a number of long-term prayers we thought were finally about to be answered begin falling apart. I recognized that I felt, in some ways, like I had been tricked by God.
“Hey, look what I’m going to do for you in answer to years of asking. Just kidding. Not really.”
I knew in my head that God doesn’t “trick” us, that everything He does is loving and truly for our best, regardless of how it looks to us. But my heart was pouting anyway.
As we had been trying valiantly to keep our heads above the waters of despair during all of these things, we learned about another little boy who needed a family — a boy we felt was ours. A child with cancer who needed desperately to come home. We were the perfect family for him and Cincinnati, home to the country’s number one children’s cancer center, was the perfect city for him. But his birth country decided we weren’t the right family for him; we were too big. We had just gotten this heartbreaking news a few days before, and I was still trying to process the grief that was threatening to suffocate me.
All of these things combined had gradually pulled Scott and me away from each other, interrupting the connection required for us to “do this life” as a team. We were both feeling sad and somewhat lost and a sense of gasping for air without this vital unity.
And just that afternoon, we had learned that another child would have to have a major surgery to correct a new problem with her bladder. This new problem had already caused some damage to one kidney, and if she didn’t have the surgery soon, she was at great risk for further damage.
SO!! NOT!! FAIR!!
Mad! That was it! I was mad! Anger was the dominant emotion behind all of the other things I was feeling. So much anger.
I tried to pray, but the words wouldn’t come. I couldn’t reach into the emotional tempest and pull out any words.
I thought about the fact that our lost little boy would be turning two years old in a couple of days. And that he would pass that birthday all alone with no family to celebrate his existence. He would never even know that a family had wanted him. He had already undergone chemotherapy without a family by his side. And now another birthday, too.
I wanted to cry, but there were no tears. Just anger.
The same day our little guy turned two, our Meghan would also turn nineteen. This thought caused my mind to wander back to my long to-do list as I ran through the things I still needed to do to prepare for her celebration. And, as I so often do when planning one of our children’s birthday celebrations, I started to remember her story. One phrase stood out in my mind:
“You not the boss! I the boss!”
Meghan had been abandoned as a newborn at a place described to us as “something like a homeless shelter” in northern China. She was about three and a half when I flew to China alone to meet her and bring her home to be our daughter.
She was our second adoption. The first had been just the year before. A little eight-month-old Nathan — a beautifully chubby, round-faced and smiley Bolivian baby boy who acted like the best day of his life was the day we showed up and gave him our name and took him into our arms. That adoption had been like a dream. It was like getting a perfect baby boy without having to go through pregnancy and labor. YES! we wanted to do this again.
I waited in the hotel lobby that chilly fall morning in Changchun, China, watching anxiously for our new little girl to arrive.
And then . . . there she was. She was much tinier than expected. She walked right into the lobby, and as I knelt down in front of her, she launched herself into my arms and held me so tightly that my eyes filled with tears. Oh my! Yes, adoption was magical and beautiful, and I was so relieved that it would, once again, be an easy thing to assimilate this child into our family.
I was wrong.
It became clear even before the end of that first day together that Meghan was a child with the ability to feel only one thing. Anger. Lots of anger. She was strong-willed and manipulative, and she had learned how to exhibit signs of love with none of the feelings. She would greet anyone the same way she had greeted me. That hug from her had meant absolutely nothing. And she quickly perceived me as the enemy and decided that she would do everything within her power to drive me away.
That day was the beginning of something we were definitely not prepared for. Although we had been through some very hard things with Raiza during her time with us, and I had learned some painful things about myself through those challenges, we had experienced nothing in our lives to really prepare us what we had ahead of us with Meghan. I had no idea that so much fear and ugliness lurked inside of me — or that this tiny-but-mighty little girl would be the tool God would use to reveal these things to me about myself.
The only small preparatory hint I had been given came through a dear friend who had also adopted a child at about this same age. Before we ever even met Meghan, she had said to me, “Don’t be surprised or shaken if you suddenly realize that you not only don’t love this child, but that you don’t even like her and sometimes wish you had never adopted her. This is completely normal and God will guide you through these things.”
Although I had initially discounted her words, thinking I could never, ever feel these things about my own child, I eventually found myself holding onto them as I tried to work my way through all of the things I felt and all of the challenges Meghan threw my way as she tried to push me out of her life. I had no idea at the time that this was actually a really good sign — that the very fact that Meghan felt threatened by me showed that there was love locked away inside of her; that she was crying out for help; that she somehow sensed I was the person who would give her what she needed, but was too afraid to let her guard down and trust me. She was feeling my love, and it terrified her. This was good. But I didn’t know enough about the world of adoption to see this at the time. As years passed, and Meghan began to share painful memories of her time in her orphanage, the hospitals, and unhappy foster homes, we better understood the reasons for her anger. She had been through so much in her young life, and had done her best to hang on all by herself.
Once I got her home from China where Scott and I began working together to address her disobedience and strong will, we started seeing some progress initially. About six months down the road, though, she suddenly hardened herself anew, and we entered new territory.
Then came the day that marked the beginning of our first real turning point. Meghan had challenged me on every issue all day. She had been in and out of time-out over and over again. I had called Scott (who was still working as an engineer during those pre-TSC days) at work in tears multiple times that day. He had tried to encourage me to stand my ground and press on.
In the afternoon, I went to take Meghan out of time-out again to see if she was ready to obey. As I talked to her, she looked at me defiantly and said, “You not the boss! I the boss!”
I don’t think anyone could’ve summed up our powerful little girl any better than she did herself when she spat these words at me. I sighed wearily and told her firmly that, she could be the “boss” in her little world of time-out, but that until she was ready to let us be her “boss,” she would have to keep going to time-out every time she disobeyed us.
The battle raged on, but then . . . One of my happiest memories ever is when she came to me days later and said softly and tearfully, “I ready be your little girl now.”
What a powerful choice of words! My heart melted, and that truly was a turning point for Meghan. There were still many up’s and down’s over the next few years, although nothing like what we had already been through. And I can remember feeling sadly that she might not ever allow herself to become 100% my daughter. I remember thinking specifically about her teen years and lamenting the possibility that we would never have those sweet mother/daughter teen experiences together like I’d had with Kristen and Erin. That thought broke my heart.
But God had such surprises ahead for me. This girl. My heart practically sang inside of me that night as I lay there in bed and basked in the profound love that Meghan and I, fully mother and daughter, now feel for each other. I was warmed by the beautiful and happy memories we’ve made together; the cherished teen years we did get to share; the amazing adult young lady she has become. She is one of the kindest, most caring people I’ve ever known. She can be passionately selfless and greatly desires making other people happy and alleviating their pain.
Watching God unwrap the forlornly-wrapped package that was Meghan the day she arrived in that hotel lobby has been one of the most exhilarating things I’ve ever experienced. Seeing what beauty was really hidden inside . . . I can’t even find words to express the surprise and delight that has been.
I love this girl more than I’ll ever be able to express, and she has brought so much unexpected joy into our lives. I thank God every day for her and for the gift of being chosen as her mother.
And, although I didn’t know it at the time, God was using that stinker of a girl to prepare Scott and me for some even tougher and more wretchedly-wrapped packages down the road. There was so much refining needed in our own hearts and lives before we were ready for those precious ones’ arrivals in our home, and God used Meghan to begin that refining process in a big way.
As I lay in bed, pondering these things, I was shocked by a sudden and very vivid mental image. I saw myself standing before God — right then, at that moment — stamping my foot, looking rebelliously into His loving face, and saying to Him, “You not the boss! I the boss!”
I was so angry that He wasn’t doing things the way I wanted. My carefully planned science unit, still sitting on the book shelf as I juggled crisis after crisis, whimpering that I was tired and wanted a rest; all those recipes I’d been so anxious to try for my family; the concerts that passed one by one without our being able to attend; the answers to prayer that weren’t coming to me the way I’d pictured them; our little boy stuck in China without a mommy and daddy when we’d been so ready to bring him home; the challenges we are facing in our marriage as we work so hard not to lose each other; another surgery to prepare for . . .
I felt I knew better than God how these things should’ve been handled, even though He has shown me over and over and over and over again that I can trust Him when I can’t make any sense out of what He’s doing. I wanted it my way; not His. “I the boss!”
I was finally able to see the whole picture more clearly — my loving, all-knowing, all-powerful, always-worthy-to-be-trusted Father looking at me so lovingly as I pouted and fumed and resisted His plans for me and my family, ignoring all of His promises to use all things for my good.
I long to trust Him more in the darkness — to fully become His daughter like I’ve watched Meghan become ours. I want to say to Him, “I ready be your little girl now.”
I have submitted again. And I will have to submit again tomorrow; and the next day and the next. I know this. But He is infinitely patient with me and already knows when and how I will fall, and when and how He will pick me back up again.
Even after seeing it so many times, I’m still surprised how often He chooses to use my children to do this.
Happy nineteenth birthday to my Meghan-girl! Thank you for all that you’ve already done in our hearts as part of God’s refining process, and for all that you are, and will continue to be, to us in years to come. Thank you for allowing yourself to become 100% my daughter as God intended from before the beginning of time. I love you.
“The soul that waits upon the Lord is the soul that is entirely surrendered to Him, and that trusts Him perfectly. Therefore we might name our wings the wings of Surrender and of Trust. If we will only surrender ourselves utterly to the Lord, and will trust Him perfectly, we shall find our souls ‘mounting up with wings as eagles’ to the ‘heavenly places’ in Christ Jesus, where earthly annoyances or sorrows have no power to disturb us.” ~ Hannah Whitall Smith